Achieving good medical practice: guidance for medical students

Domain 4 Maintaining trust

Show respect for patients

  1. Doctors must not use their professional position to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with patients or those close to them.
  2. When something goes wrong with a patient's treatment, doctors must be open and honest with patients and carers.
  3. As a medical student, your studies will bring you into contact with patients and members of the public, who can be physically and emotionally vulnerable. Because of this, and the fact that you'll be joining a trusted profession, you must not use your position to pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship with them. This includes situations where a patient or someone close to them tries to initiate a relationship with you.
  4. Treating patients with respect includes not expressing your personal beliefs to patients in ways that exploit their vulnerability or would cause them distress.
  5. As a medical student, you won't be directly responsible for patient care because this responsibility will lie with your supervisor. But if you think any aspect of care that you are involved in has gone wrong, you should tell your supervisor as soon as possible. Your supervisor will support you, and if necessary will help you to put things right, which may include explaining to the patient what has happened and offering an apology.

Treat patients and colleagues fairly and without discrimination

  1. Doctors must provide or arrange investigations and treatment based on:
    • the assessment that they and their patient make of the patient's needs and priorities, and
    • their clinical judgement about the likely effectiveness of the treatment options.

    Doctors must not refuse or delay treatment because they believe a patient's actions or lifestyle have contributed to their condition.

  2. As a medical student, you won't be expected to make decisions about treatment options. But you mustn't let your own opinions or views affect the way you treat patients and others or the information you give them.
  3. Medical students must treat their colleagues with respect. In your case, colleagues include fellow medical and other healthcare students, the clinicians and other staff you work with on clinical placements, and the staff at your medical school.
  4. You must not unfairly discriminate against patients or colleagues on the basis of their lifestyle, culture, or social or economic status. This includes characteristics protected by legislation, which are:
    • age
    • disability
    • gender reassignment
    • marriage and civil partnership
    • pregnancy and maternity
    • race
    • religion or belief
    • sex
    • sexual orientation.

How can I handle unconscious bias?

Unconscious biases are the beliefs, attitudes or stereotypes that affect your understanding, actions or decisions in a way you are not consciously aware of. Often these biases affect the immediate decisions we make about people and situations.

Reflective practice involves trying to identify your personal biases and how they influence your thinking and the way you respond to people or situations. Developing this skill is fundamental to making good decisions as a professional.

See The reflective practitioner - a guide for medical students.

Act with honesty and integrity


  1. Doctors hold a trusted position in society and must make sure their conduct - both professionally and personally - justifies their patients' trust in them and the public's confidence in the profession.
  2. As a student aiming to join a trusted profession, you have to meet a higher standard of behaviour than other students, who are on courses that don't directly lead to joining a profession.

How can I demonstrate honesty?

You must behave honestly from the point that you apply to medical school, during your studies and when you start working as a doctor.

Here are some practical things you must do to demonstrate you are honest in your work as a medical student.

  • Don't pass off the work of others as your own. This is plagiarism.
  • Don't self-plagiarise by submitting your own previously assessed work.
  • Be honest about your experience and qualifications. This means you must not give your supervisors or teachers any misleading or false information about your qualifications or experience or include such information in documents such as CVs and job applications.
  • When you carry out research, make sure you report findings accurately and truthfully.
  • Be honest and trustworthy in all your communications with patients and colleagues. This means you must make clear the extent of your knowledge and check that the information you provide is correct.
  • Be open and truthful about your health and make use of the processes put in place by your medical school to support you.
  • Be honest in the work you submit as part of your course. This means you must not claim to have done something, like a practical procedure on a clinical placement, if you have not.
  • Don't say you have attended teaching sessions if you haven't. And don't ask another student to sign in for you.
  • Be honest and open in any financial and commercial dealings with employers, insurers and other organisations and individuals.